Monday, 24 February 2014

Allowing barn conversions won't help provide housing. Really?


Or so says Sarah Wollaston (that she is a Conservative MP makes me want to weep) presumably following a meeting with the folk who want her local National Park to be an unchanging place where only the wealthy can afford to live:

The average house price within the Dartmoor national park is in excess of £270,000; nine times the median local income and over sixteen times incomes in the lowest quartile. The chance of finding affordable rented accommodation is also grim, and the situation is forcing out young people and families with serious consequences for rural communities.

An increase in housing supply will do nothing to reduce prices if it caters for an entirely different demand. The proposals would allow for new developments to be almost twice the guideline size for affordable housing. Rather than meeting a genuine need they would unleash a second and luxury homes bonanza, creating yet more ghost villages and hamlets inhabited only at weekends or in season.

So what exactly are these changes? Well the main one is this:

 In brief the new measures would:

• Allow up to 3 additional dwelling houses (which includes flats) to be converted on an agricultural unit.
• Enable the physical development necessary to allow for the conversion, and where appropriate the demolition and rebuild, of the property on the same footprint.
• Include prior approval for siting and design to ensure physical development complies with local plan policies on design, materials and outlook.
• Include prior approval for transport and highways impact, noise impact, contamination and flood risks to ensure that change of use takes place only in sustainable locations.

The new proposed changes will only apply to buildings constructed prior 20th March 2013, but will also include properties within the boundaries of the National Parks, AONB’s and other conservation areas. 

That's it folks. Owners of redundant agricultural buildings can (subject to complying with rules on design, materials, outlook, highways impact, noise, contamination and flood risk) go ahead an build without the need for planning permission.

I really can't see the problem, indeed I wrote about the stupidity of blocking conversions to residential nearly two years ago pointing out that this could deliver 500 new homes in my ward without any 'take' from green belt or loss of openness.

Dr Wollaston's other moan is about affordable housing and the rural exemption policy. This policy, in effect, allows the breaking of green belt rules because there is no other way of delivering small scale affordable housing developments:

Where the landowner knows there is no possibility of selling to developers at open market housing rates, affordable housing is cross-subsidised by a small percentage of open market value properties.

Of course this policy still exists and housing associations are still able to secure developments on exemption sites. Nothing has changed except that the potential supply of market housing is increased. Not, as the scaremongers are saying, by the 'suburbanisation' of the countryside, but by existing and unused buildings being turned into homes. Seems to me this is a good thing?


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